Michigan families behind on their water bills can apply for a new program to help them catch up and keep their tap running.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), a Detroit-based nonprofit, has launched MiWATER, funded by $5 million in pandemic relief dollars from the federal government through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The program is expected to run through September 2024 and could aid up to 2,500 households with payment assistance.

“Water is essential to keep people healthy and we want to make sure no one is left in a home without it,” THAW CEO Saunteel Jenkins said in a Tuesday news release. “This program will help stabilize and empower Michiganders through bill payment assistance, and by providing services that increase water conservation, energy efficiency and reduces the cost for families.”

How it works

The program can help those eligible with as much as $2,500 in water bill payments for residential customers across the state who have a past due water bill, water conservation audits, minor plumbing repairs for those in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and support services such as case management.

THAW is currently accepting applications for bill payment aid. Later this year, the nonprofit will roll out the water conservation assistance for those in the tri-county area.

Who is eligible

For bill payment help, the applicant must be a residential customer in Michigan, have an income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level (which, for a family of three, is $43,740 a year), prove that they are responsible for paying the water bill, have a delinquent water bill and have experienced some type of financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a decrease in household income, job loss and increased expenses.

For the water conservation aid, they must be a residential customer in Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb County, have income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, show they are responsible for water bills and have high water usage that THAW says will vary by community. In rental homes the landlord must agree to have the work done and not raise rents after the repairs and upgrades are completed.

How to apply

For more information and to apply, go to thawfund.org/assistance/mi-water-program/ or call 1-800-866-8429.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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